For years, Israel has wrongly claimed that the Bedouin village of Khan al-Ahmar sits on state land, and that is what enabled it to persuade the High Court of Justice not to intervene in its decision to raze the village, according to a new petition against the demolition which was submitted to the court on Monday.
In fact, the new petition claims, this is privately-owned land legally registered in the Jordanian land registry back when Jordan controlled the West Bank.
On Tuesday, in response to another petition that was submitted last week, the state informed the court that it intends to demolish the village in another few days. The villagers are slated to be relocated to a site near the Abu Dis dump, known as Al-Jabal West.
The court issued a temporary injunction on the demolition in response to the earlier petition. Nevertheless, the state has been building new roads in the area for the past week. The residents and their lawyers think the roads are meant to make it easier to forcibly evict the villagers, since demolishing their tents and huts doesn’t require many bulldozers.
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On Monday, Judge Ofer Grosskopf issued a restraining order in response to the new petition. The order bars the state from evicting the residents and requires it to respond to the petition’s arguments by July 16.
In its response on Tuesday to the first petition, the state asked the court to issue a ruling quickly, since “forces are already deployed in the field” to carry out the demolition. It also asked the court to reduce the scope of the first restraining order to enable it to demolish the village’s school, which is made of tires. Israel’s Civil Administration in the West Bank has already stationed 10 mobile homes in Al-Jabal West for a replacement school, the brief said.
The Civil Administration, the police and other agencies are making final preparations for razing Khan al-Ahmar, the brief continued, in line with the court’s ruling on May 24. It said these preparations are aimed at carrying out the demolition “within a few days.”
Last week’s petition argued that residents had submitted a detailed master plan to the Civil Administration earlier that week, but the administration had refused to consider it, and the village shouldn’t be demolished until it did so. One of the state’s arguments for why this petition should be rejected was that it didn’t include any documents demonstrating any rights to the land covered by the master plan. Therefore, it said, the administration’s refusal to consider the plan was justified.
The new petition argues that Khan al-Ahmar residents received permission from the land’s legal owners to use it. In response to the state’s claim that this land was legally expropriated from its Palestinian owners in 1975, the petition argued that the villagers were never informed of the expropriation, and in any case, the map shows that their village lies at the very edge of the expropriated area.